BRITAIN is to station troops in the Baltic states amid growing tension with Russia in the wake of president Vladimir Putin’s military intervention in Syria.
Defence Secretary Michael Fallon said the deployment of a company size detachment – numbering around 100 personnel – was part of a “more persistent presence” by Nato forces in eastern Europe.
“This is further reassurance for our allies on the eastern flank of Nato – for the Baltic states and for Poland,” he said, as he arrived in Brussels for a meeting of alliance defence ministers.
“That is part of our more persistent presence on the eastern side of Nato to respond to any further provocation and aggression.”
The troops, who are expected to be deployed in the coming months, will form part of a US/German-led training, evaluation and capacity-building mission in Poland and the Baltic states of Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia.
The move came as Nato secretary general Jens Stoltenberg announced plans had been finalised for a new response force of up to 40,000 – twice the current size – and new Nato headquarters offices in Hungary and Slovakia. “All of this sends a clear message to all Nato citizens. Nato will defend you, Nato is on the ground, Nato is ready,” he said.
Mr Stoltenberg condemned the latest escalation in Syria, which saw Russian warships in the Caspian Sea launch cruise missile strikes against opposition forces fighting president Bashar Assad.
He also strongly denounced the “unacceptable” violations of Turkish airspace by Russian war planes. “The Russian actions and the support to the regime are not helpful,” he said.
His comments were echoed by Mr Fallon who said Russia’s intervention was making “a very serious situation in Syria much more dangerous”.
“If Russia wants to help here, the single most helpful thing they can do is use their influence on Assad to stop barrel-bombing his own civilians,” he said.
Meanwhile, four Russian cruise missiles fired at Syria from the Caspian Sea landed on Iran, according to unnamed US officials.